It’s Monday and back to work after a long weekend. I took some days off from work and enjoyed a quiet, reflective holiday four-day vacation. Yesterday, I did some of those beginning-of-the-week things: I made a note of my schedule, made a list of things to do this week, and wrote all of these on my week-at-a-glance dry erase board. Noting that yesterday was both the beginning of a new week and the beginning of a new month, I also thought about some of my dreams.
There’s nothing like taking a dream and prioritizing it into a must-do-get-to. The dream is a long talked about, but not finished draft of a book. I have many ideas for a book, but the one that feels closest to my heart and the one that first bubbles up in my dreams is a memoir and/or collection of essays related to food. A few years ago, I sat down and brainstormed the essays that might go into this book, writing down possible topics and essays on index cards. I have added to the index card collection and now they’re sitting in a small decorative bowl that my stepmother gave me last year.
You may or may not know that November was “National Novel Writing month,” a month where many individuals try to pound out 50,000 words in the form of a novel. Some critique the idea of quantity over quality. Others just sit in awe. It’s all informally formal. You can register via a website and find others in your area trying to do the same thing. It reminds me of runners finding running groups. Writing, and running, are both individual efforts, but often the daunting task can be lessened in the company of others. A burden is shared together. Ten miles is hard, but less so with others. A novel is hard, but less so with others. Of all my 7-10 book/writing project ideas, a novel isn’t in the cards, at least not yet. Navigating and plotting out a novel just doesn’t feel doable or desirable, right now. A book of short stories, sure, but writing a novel isn’t my cup of tea. At the beginning of November, I thought about trying to pound out my essays, but I wasn’t quite ready.
Last night, I texted a friend and asked about setting up a writing date for Friday, the first day of my weekend. She replied that she was in for this Friday, provided schedule and circumstances work out. Lately, she and I have had a hard time meeting up for lunch, or for a drink, or for a writing date. It’s been a combination of schedules that don’t quite sync up and forgotten appointments. I’m not worried about the friendship, we’ll eventually find the time and make the appointment to meet up. I am, however, concerned about my long-talked-about-but-never-completed goal. A writing date is relatively simple. You show up with your notebook or laptop and dedicate a period of time to writing. Ironically, it’s mostly silent, but it’s all about writing in the company of others. I’ve decided I have a writing date no matter what on Friday and hope my friend is there, too.
I went back to my computer and manila envelope of printed out drafts. I have a few essays that I think could make the cut. I shuffled through the deck of essay-idea-index-cards in the bowl and felt excited about writing them. I think I could make this project cohesive and find the ways to make a personal story go beyond my own experience. I think I have the tools, the ideas, the inspiration, the mindset, the grit, the determination.
I decided to make December my month of writing the book. I plan to scratch out the ideas, articulate the connection, make the essays the focus. I am adopting part of the framework of the November novel writing month: writing daily and putting together a mass of words into the body of a book. I am shooting for 50,000 words or so this month. I am going for 30 or so essays (not counting the ones I already have written) this month. I am hoping to meet up with others to write and share and go for it.
If all comes together, I will have a mass of a draft, a bunch of essays, an interconnected mess that could become a book. I liken writing a book to running a marathon. Sometimes the challenge is in the doing, less so the result. Whether or not this becomes something that an editor and company wants to publish is a completely different question.
Right now, I want to write. I have no control over the publishing aspect, but I do have control over my end of the dream: writing a cohesive book-length work. December is all about getting the book-length work. January and beyond will be about editing and shaping and getting feedback. Beyond that will be figuring out if editors and agents and publishing companies want it. I care less about this piece, I care more about the writing, pulling it together. Weirdly, I’m finding the Zen in writing, controlling what I can and surrendering what I can’t. Funnily enough, writing is teaching me about living.
Do you have a dream that you could bring out of the clouds into a priority, a get-to-do? What is that dream? What is your time? What can you do to make it happen?